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Are You Not Entertained?
The Maundy Monday Newsletter - This Week in History March 13 - March 19.
Happy Monday! It’s St. Patrick’s Day week, and I am lucky to have you as a subscriber to Okay History.
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We are well into our rankings of the amendments, and at least one subscriber is eagerly waiting for the Seventeenth Amendment to appear sooner rather than later.
But Maundy Monday isn’t about the rankings; it’s its own thing. A separate series that is just as equal as the rankings I put out, or the Ask Me Anything series, or any other ideas for segmentation that I can come up with to entertain you with.
Speaking of entertaining, one could argue that the Supreme Court is quite entertaining.
They entertained the first Catholic to the Court in 1836 when Roger Taney became Chief Justice. Check out his major decision. Not okay, Roger.
They entertained the first Jew in 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson appointed Louis Brandeis to the court.
The entertainment continued when Thurgood Marshall took the bench as the first black guy in 1967. Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman in 1980. The entertaining sped up when Ruth Bader Ginsburg took her seat in 1993. Sonia Sotomayor was the center of entertainment in 2009 as the first woman of color and a Latino. Finally, President Biden entertained many of us when he appointed Ketanji Brown Jackson to the court just last year, becoming the first black woman.
Justice Jackson has another first to her name. She is the first public defender to become a Supreme Court Justice, and this brings us to this week’s anniversary - the critical Supreme Court case that brought us the public defender.
On March 18, 1963, the Supreme Court ruled in Gideon vs. Wainwright that the yet-to-be-ranked Sixth Amendment to the Constitution guaranteed the right to an attorney.
In 1961, Floridian Clarence Earl Gideon broke into a store and was caught stealing a Coke, not the new version, obviously, among other things. He couldn’t afford a lawyer and had to defend himself. If you watched an episode of Law & Order when the defendant defended themselves, it never worked out, but it sure was entertaining.
Gideon didn’t understand fundamental law because he never watched Law & Order, lost, and went to jail. He appealed his case all the up the system, and the Supreme Court eventually ruled in his favor.
Since then, the United States government must provide you with a lawyer. Like a real one. Not an actor from Law & Order. Even though that would be entertaining.
The unanimous decision was delivered by our friend Justice Hugo Black whom we learned about last week. Black broke it all down when he said lawyers in court proceedings are necessities, not luxuries. Justice Tom Clark concurred when he said there was no difference between capital and non-capital offenses and that both deserve representation.
What’s the difference between capital and non-capital offenses? Here’s the Okay History definition: putting out “New Coke” is a capital offense. Stealing old Coke because you fear it will be gone is a non-capital offense.
Okay, let's highlight what else happened this week. Here's what I got:
Oliver North was indicted on March 16, 1988. The retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel and two-time Purple Heart recipient was accused of committing 16 felonies during a thing called The Iran-Contra Affair. “Affairs” entertain everyone. North would be convicted on four accounts, but in 1991 the decision was overturned. More importantly, he is the inspiration for how I rank things. Just take the first 16 seconds of this North testimony and apply it to OKH. Entertaining, isn’t it?
The first televised Academy Awards aired on March 19, 1953. Bob Hope hosted the 25th-anniversary show. Twenty-three million people entertained themselves by watching on NBC, while another 31 million were entertained by the radio.
Operation Freedom was launched on March 19, 2003. Congress authorized President George W. Bush to authorize force, and force authorized Saddam Hussein and his regime to fall. Technically this was not a war, just as technically, there were no weapons of mass destruction, just as technically, I’m not always entertaining.
When deciding on the Gideon case, Justice Black and the rest of the court used an earlier ruling to justify their thinking.
In 1932 the Supreme Court overturned the convictions of eight young black men accused and convicted of raping two white women. You might be shocked to learn this happened in Alabama.
In what is known as the Scottsboro Boys incident, a thoroughly unentertaining event, the boys, whose ages ranged from 12 to 19, were arrested after fighting with a group of white boys while riding a freight train. All the white boys were tossed from the train, and when the train stopped, accusations of rape were made by the white women, convictions were made, and death sentences were handed out.
A lawyer was assigned to the boys at the last minute before trial, giving the defendants little time to prepare, and based on this, the boys appealed their quick convictions. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled against them 7-2, although the Chief Justice was one of the dissenters, and I’m sure that made him hugely popular.
Aided by the Communist Party and the NCAAP, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and ruled 7-2 for the boys, claiming their rights had been violated under the Due Process clause in the yet-to-be-ranked Fourteenth Amendment.
However, the court didn’t find the defendants innocent, and their case was sent back to Alabama. With a second chance at convictions, the state did just that. Rounds and rounds of trials ensued, and the boys languished in prison for years.
Eventually, the Supreme Court took another case involving the boys and again overturned the conviction, this time based on the jury selection. They ruled that Alabama violated the Fourteenth Amendment again when an all-white jury was chosen. Come on, Bama.
As crazy as the Scottsboro Boys story was, it became partially the inspiration for Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, To Kill a Mocking Bird. Lee grew up in Alabama during this time.
We can all agree that To Kill a Mocking Bird is very entertaining.
We had two straight weeks of Supreme Court cases in the Maundy Monday Newsletter, and alongside the ranking of the amendments, everything lately sounds judicial. In case you don’t know or don’t remember, I try and find events of the week that have their anniversaries that end in a five or zero, and the Court has had some significant anniversaries on high-profile cases recently.
Hey, like the Supreme Court, I don’t make the rules.
On Friday, I am back with another Ask Me Anything post. It deals with the regular history you won’t know a thing about.
Don’t forget to fill my inbox with questions you want answers to. Do not be shy. I can be reached at email@example.com. Also, if you like this post, I would appreciate it if you could smash the like button at the bottom. This becomes even easier if you download the Substack app on your phone.
I hope you have an entertaining week!